Making Time

The clock pictured below was built out of desperation and boredom. The need to fight the cabin fever of the past winter was strong. Unrelenting cold, wet days with several heavy snows thrown in for good measure gave the winter an unwanted permanence. Deprived of the sun and unable to see the moon and stars wheeling overhead at night for days on end were causing me to become disconnected from time. Was Venus a morning or an evening star? What was the phase of the moon? A lunar eclipse tonight? The best in a century? Happy people the world over gathering out of doors to watch the event. Not here, not in this gray sameness. I began to understand how a caged animal feels and was reminded of a scene from the movie The Shining. Jack Nicholson had just crossed the border between sanity and insanity and, axe in hand, decided to have a discussion with his wife. She, quite naturally, was not too keen on talking to him and so locked herself in her room. Jack obligingly chopped through the door and, when the hole was large enough, pushed his head through and grimaced the words “Here’s Johnny!” When I realized that I understood how Jack felt, I knew that I needed a project.

What better project than to create time itself. Rummaging around, I found a set of plans for a wooden clock that I had bought years before. I had put them aside after making one false start at making the clock. Not this time, I thought, not this time. Tracking down the wood needed for the project, I began to lay it out on one particularly dark February afternoon. Affixing the templates for the gears to the wood, I sat down at the scroll saw and began. The first attempt was a failure. This will never do, I thought. After doing some research, I was off to buy proper blades and would take more care in installing them properly. Now, let’s try again.

The second attempt turned out quite well and I held a useable clock gear in my hand. And so it continued over the next few weeks as I turned my back on the cold and rain, creating my own time. The vibration of the wood under my hands as the blade slowly picked out the individual cogs of the gear, the stiffness of my muscles from hunching over the saw were satisfying. Satisfying? They were therapeutic. First the gears, then the plates and finally the dial. Several ideas about the dial floated through my head as I worked but I finally decided on a simple addition. Being a member of several horologic associations, I am well aware of the tacit bragging behind a member’s statement that he had just picked up a nice Gustav Becker. Or, it’s a Kroeber you know. Hence I decided that there would be no doubt as to the maker of this clock. In my fantasies about my creation, I picture someone holding it up and saying, “It’s a Kuntz, you know.”